Living in a joint family is never easy. Often the eldest of the family members dominate and control the people in the household in every possible way. This dominance also extends to the vital decisions taken by the elders on behalf of the younger generation, including the career choices. Often these decisions are forcefully imposed on the people without making an attempt to understand what they really aspire for.
Director Sachin Kundalkar’s latest Marathi film Rajwade and Sons narrates the story of a joint family headed by Ramesh Rajwade (Satish Alekar) who has built a chain of successful business ventures including a reputed jewellery shop in the city of Pune. The reins of this business empire are held by his children Shubhankar (Atul Kulkarni), Laxmi (Mrinal Kulkarni) and Vidyadhar (Sachin Khedekar) who try to teach their children the same set of values they have imbibed and ensure that the family legacy is carried on by them. However the younger generation of the Rajwade family which includes Anay (Alok Rajwade), Shweta (Krutika Deo) and Ananya (Mrinmayee Godbole) are rebellious in their own right and have different aspirations with the exception of Virajas (Siddharth Menon). They do not look forward to carrying the family legacy. The arrival of an estranged family member Vikram Rajwade (Amitryin Patil) gives further wings to this rebellion of the younger generation.
Most Indian films have shown joint families as the ones having a very happy and blissful existence. Rarely are the decisions and the dominance of the elders in the family questioned. And if there are any squabbles, they are sorted out before the film ends and its back to being one big, happy family. Rarely have the films shown how the generation gap, squabbles, egos, patriarchy, dominance and other issues can hamper the freedom and liberties of an individual and lead to them to being repressed and frustrated.
This is why a film like Rajwade And Sons comes across as a refreshing break for it depicts a joint family with utmost realism. There are no sickeningly sweet relatives or family members. Instead there are dominating elders who impose rules on the younger generation without considering their opinions. The parents are blindly following the ways of the patriarch without knowing if that is what they really aspire for. And then there is the third generation of the family who are respectful of their elders yet do not bat an eyelid before fighting for what they want.
The film also shares similarities with Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Khoobsurat wherein an outsider acts as a catalyst for the rebellion among the family members. Interestingly, the ‘outsider’ in this case is an estranged family member, who is constantly referred to in hushed tones and maybe know some unpleasant secrets of the family.
Much like Kundalkar’s previous film Happy Journey, the film shows relationships in a different perspective. While the film does talk about the rebellion of the younger generation, it also shows the hidden aspirations and frustrations of the older generation. Soon you realize that many of them are as disappointed and clueless with their lives similar to the younger generation. Some of them got stuck to the grind and before they realized it was too late. This is wonderfully conveyed by Vidyadhar in the scene in which he asks Vikram to leave the house. While some of the lead a blissfully dual life.
It also makes you acknowledge and appreciate the fact that the second generation must have had some desires and aspirations which they forego as they got stuck in the rut of running the household and raising their children. In the same context, a scene in which Laxmi expresses her regret to Vikram about getting married early and letting go of her passion of acting in stage plays stands out.
The film uses the city of Pune in a great way to depict the changing times. The landmark places of the city are contrasted by images of towering buildings, skyscrapers and highlight this change very well. In the one of the initial scenes, as the family moves from their old ancestral home to a plush apartment, we see Laxmi, Vidyadhar and their mother standing in the galleries of their flats located on different floors and conversing with each other. This scene subtly highlights the distance seeping among the family members who have been used to staying together for a long time.
On the flip side, the film does appear a bit too wannabe at times with its unwanted references to selfies and terms like LOL which are printed in Marathi on things like coffee mug, laptop. Even the intermission point crops in abruptly. Despite not caricaturing or stereotyping the characters, you do feel that Satish Alekar and especially Jyoti Subhash deserved some more screen time. Though Alekar has a prominent role for most parts, his character could have been given more footage towards the end and deserved a better culmination. Similarly, Jyoti Subhash who is a silent spectator to the things happening in the house and whose opinion is rarely asked for, yearns for her estranged son Vikram and is angry for being forced to bear several children in order to ensure the family has more heirs. Sadly beyond these moments, there is not much dimension or screen-time given time to her character.
Though the film is mainly about the youngest generation of the family and the actors do a good job, the performances of the older family members impress the most among the ensemble cast. Sachin Khedekar, Atul Kulkarni and Mrinal Kulkarni are well cast and are efficient as always. As a person who stuck tirelessly to the rut and is pally with his son, Sachin Khedekar reminds you why he is one of the better actors we have today. Mrinal Kulkarni stands out with her performance as a woman who sacrificed her ambitions and later on supports her daughter with her career choices. Amitriyin Patil puts in a good performance as the estranged son. Rahul Mehendale is aptly cast as the dominating and selfish husband of Mrinal Kulkarni. Veteran actor Satish Alekar who has been wasted in a lot of insignificant roles in Marathi films of late, gets a role after a while that is worthy of his caliber and he does complete justice to it. Jyoti Subhash has an impressive screen presence and acts well; though a better screen-time and characterization would have helped her case a lot more.
Like Happy Journey, this film is also one of the more stylish Marathi films in recent times. Though most of the film is shot indoors, cinematographer Arjun Sorte’s work stands out and it is visible in the way he has captured the various locales of Pune city.
Sachin Kundalkar’s Rajwade And Sons takes a refreshing look at joint families and captures the generation gap and other issues very well. The temptation of not resorting to melodrama is what makes it stand out from a regular family drama. And due to reasons like this, one can easily term it as one of the better Marathi films of the year. The film is currently playing in very few shows in its 2nd week and it may be out in a couple of days as more biggies their make way to the theatres. Do take out your time and make a trip to the cinemas before its too late.